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VIRTUAL FILM SCREENING AND TALKBACK: A Crime on the Bayou
Talkback with Lolis Elie
A film by Nancy Buirski
In partnership with the Philadelphia Athenæum
It is freedom summer, 1966, on the sweltering Louisiana bayou. In Plaquemines Parish, a young black fisherman, Gary Duncan, sees some white boys picking on his teenage cousins outside a newly integrated high school. Diffusing the tension, he gently lays his hand on a white boy’s arm. The boy recoils like a snake. That night, police burst into Duncan’s trailer and arrest Gary, changing his life forever.
A young Jewish lawyer, Richard Sobol, left an exclusive east coast firm to be mentored by lawyers in the most radical black law office in New Orleans. Richard agrees to defend Gary, moved by the young man’s bravery. Although it's a minor crime, Plaquemines Parish is controlled by the despotic Leander Perez, the cigar puffing D.A. who uses the law to run the Parish run as his personal fiefdom, upholding segregation and white supremacy. Arresting men like Duncan keeps blacks in their place, and challenging him is very dangerous.
Defying numerous arrests and risks to their lives and livelihoods, Gary and Richard keep fighting, appealing the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Duncan v. Louisiana becomes an integral step toward more just trials across the country.
Lolis Eric Elie is a New Orleans born, Los Angeles based writer and filmmaker. His television credits include work on “Bosch,” “The Chi,” "The Man in the High Castle," "Greenleaf" and the HBO series "Treme." Working with the award-winning director Dawn Logsdon, he co- produced and wrote the PBS documentary, Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans. He is the co-author or “Rodney Scott’s World of Barbecue: Every Day’s a Good Day,” from Clarkson-Potter. His essay, “America’s Greatest Hits,” is included in Best African American Essays: 2009.
A former columnist for The Times-Picayune, he is the author of Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country and co-producer and writer of Smokestack Lightning: A Day in the Life of Barbecue, the documentary based on that book. He is editor of Cornbread Nation 2: The Best of Southern Food Writing.
A contributing writer to The Oxford American, his work has appeared in Gourmet, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Bon Appetit, Downbeat and The San Francisco Chronicle.